Book Review: Man-Killers of the Air, an Adventure Yarn by L. Ron Hubbard

man-killers of the airI love the pulp fiction coming out of Galaxy Press lately. In the past there were expensive leather-bound books of L. Ron Hubbard’s pulp works by Easton Press and others, but this is truly a great thing.

I heard the audio books were good as well. In fact I have been present for some of these live audio presentations and they’re great. Reminds me of the old radio programs I’ve heard on CD.

Story, Plot, Etc:

First impression is the pace at which the story flies. Hubbard was a barnstormer in his younger years before creating Dianetics and his experience clearly shows. The story is written at a time of Japanese aggression in the Pacific, but years before America was hit in Pearl Harbor.

Smoke is a pilot, who has a sidekick (Andy his PR man) and a girl who thinks Smoke loves piloting more than her. Smoke has a secret. He’s very broke, no cash, no dinero. What to do?

Girard, a newspaper mogul who cares more for circulation numbers than how many lives need to be lost or reputations ruined in search of it, offers Smoke a chance at making a lot of money in exchange for a plane that Smoke’s girlfriend has the rights to, a plane that could make a difference if the “Japs” get tough.

As with all of Hubbard’s characters, Smoke has a quirk that makes him stand out – he has a pet cheetah named Patty! She’s really a pussycat but you’d never know it from seeing her. Plot-wise Hubbard does not draw out the cat too much. He’s much more interested in building the tension between Smoke and Girard (never giving up in the face of adversity) and between Smoke and his girlfriend, the babe knock-out, Mel, who is conflicted between Smoke’s love of flight and the love of him.

Fun adventure as they travel across South America. Someone spikes the gasoline and they come down! Will they win the race in time? Or die as a few others have, crashed into the Andes or sunk in the Caribbean?


As with most pulps of the time, this one has a moral attached to it, along with some sneak peek into the human condition that Hubbard does so well. Hubbard’s output with science fiction is very minimal, despite popular belief. His stories were adventure, and this one really takes off!

Can’t wait for the audio book.



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